The Incredibly Unfair Elections Act

Categories: 2014 and Philosophy.

Please read Andrew Coyne’s latest on the Conservatives’ hilariously-titled Fair Elections Act: Any government that feels that it must rig the next election in order to get re-elected clearly should have never been elected in the first place. Read More

Bird and Diz (1949, 1950, 1952) by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie

Categories: 1952 and Music.

Somebody else said it best: this is like a better produced version of their earlier sides. (That being said, sometimes it’s hard to hear Monk.) These are the people most responsible for post-war mainstream jazz, but this compilation actually compiles some later sessions (’49 and ’50) and though it’s great to hear them together, it’s not as world-changing as their earlier music. Also, it’s short on whole songs. They have added a ton of demos to flesh it out. Still great stuff. 8/10 Read More

Dizzy Gillespie at Newport (1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

There is something in me that wants to see this as some kind of newish generation response to Ellington at Newport the year before but I guess that’s me just trying to impose some narrative on this. I wasn’t expecting to like this, as I am not a huge fan of ’50s big band arrangements that aren’t by Mingus (at least so far). But this is great stuff: Gillespie is awesome and his band does an excellent job of amazing you with their playing but also joking around, even though the music is pretty conventional (albeit a lot more Afro-Cuban Read More

The Civil War (1990, Ken Burns)

Categories: 1990 and TV.

I watched when I was 8 or 9 and never since. On watching it this time, I am amazed I still remember some of it; it obviously had a big impression on me. This documentary is an important landmark – kind of like the American version of Shoah – the first long-form American documentary about American history. And it’s also iconic – so much of what is contained in this film has become cliche but that’s not because it is cliche, just that Burns’ style has weaseled its way into American documentary storytelling, especially in the case of TV documentaries. Read More

Live Reading of Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996) at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, March 11, 2014

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Last night I went to my first “live reading” of a movie script, this has become something of a trend. I wasn’t going to go initially, but my cousin was already going and Monique wanted to go. I had some slight reservations, but I had enjoyed their show in the fall so much that I put them aside. The live reading was performed by the Kids in the Hall themselves (with Foley in particular playing multiple parts that other male actors played in the actual film, because he had such a minor set of roles in the film, because he Read More

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013, John M. Chu)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is infinitely better than the original, at least technically speaking: the film is not a cartoon posing as a live action film, and the script is far, far better. But this is daming with faint praise; the original was terrible and my rating of 2/10 feels charitable in hindsight. This film is better but it is still worse than mediocre. For one thing, it doesn’t know what it is: the first section of the film is played more for laughs than for anything else, and then the film gets pretty serious. Is this change in tone an attempt to Read More

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010, Edgar Wright)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

I feel like this is another Better Off Dead, only executed much better. Not everything works, but most of it does, and the inventive direction – probably “inventive” only because of how true it is to the source material – does a lot to let us overcome the cliches. Certainly this film could be a lot better but that’s on the source material. As an adaptation, it’s kind of great despite the rom-com / coming of age cliches – and despite the ending, that could have made it so much better if handled differently – and it’s amazing some video Read More

Riley Goes to Turkey (February 2014)

Categories: 2014 and Travel.

You may have noticed the lack of blog posts from me during part of February. That’s because the wife and I went to Turkey. What follows is a summary of what we did. Why Turkey? Turkey has always been on my list, but it was quite high up on Monique’s. The real reason we went, and now – in the winter, with the Syrian Civil War supposedly scaring people away – was because we got a deal. We got a groupon for a tour with Gate 1, an American company I had never heard of before. We were a little Read More

Pacific Rim (2013, Guillermo del Toro)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is about as intelligent and well-produced a re-imagining of Gojira as I can imagine, but that isn’t saying much, is it? I mean Gojira and its offspring aren’t exactly smart movies, and they aren’t exactly the picture of high production values. But Del Toro goes really big, and going so big he seems to have won a lot of people over. I’m not sure bigger is better – though if you’re going to make a giant monster movie, bigger is indeed better – and I find myself wondering if this could have been just…you know, more fun. Only one Read More

That Guy…Who Was in that Thing (2012, Ian Roumain, Michael Schwartz)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a pretty poorly made documentary – there’s no consistency from one part to the next. For example, out of the blue they put a question for the interviewees up on the screen, but they only do it once and there is no obvious reason for it. Nor are there obvious reasons for any of the other changes in style that occur throughout the film. But this remains a very interesting movie, in spite of the poor direction. I have seen all of these guys in various films – some in numerous films – and I only ever knew Read More

Outlander (2008, Howard McCain)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

I really wish movies like this would try just a little. Just a little. This is essentially Vikings and Aliens but it wouldn’t be so horrible if a little more effort was put into it: Canada substitutes for Norway – which might not be so bad if the CGI weren’t so terrible but it regularly feels like the actors are standing in front of a good old Hollywood backdrop – the character motivations are the same as every other movie like this, everything is amped up to the ridiculous and, yes, the CGI is legendarily bad. But it’s the ridiculousness Read More

In Patagonia (1977) by Bruce Chatwin

Categories: 1977, Books, and Non-Fiction.

Part travelog, part oral history, part amateur archaeological text, part memoir. Totally unique and a far cry from Theroux’s more traditional travel writing. Theroux takes the train, Chatwin hitchhikes – and perhaps that is why their experiences are so different. Chatwin is also much more concerned with local memory / mythology as history rather than his own personal observations of cultures and peoples. It’s a completely different approach but it is just as interesting. 8/10 Read More

Indignation (2008) by Philip Roth

Categories: 2008, Books, and Fiction.

This has some great moments but on the whole it feels a little forced, for lack of a better word. I feel like the whole “dead narrator” thing is unnecessary, though I’m not sure how I’d fix it. When I was on the bus that I read this on, I was having trouble putting my feelings into words, in part because of jet lag. I guess what bugs me is that I do not believe in an afterlife and, though I find Roth’s idea of an afterlife in this book a little thought-provoking. but I don’t find it complimentary to Read More

The Viceroy of Ouidah (1980) by Bruce Chatwin

Categories: 1980, Books, and Fiction.

Is this mythology as history? Or maybe narrative journalism as history? I saw Cobra Verde ages ago and I didn’t know this was the source material. If memory serves, it was very liberally adapted. This is an absolutely crazy story, and at this remove I’m not sure if it matters what is true and what isn’t. It’s a fascinating and bizarre situation during a bizarre time and this kind of approach, well over a century removed, makes the whole story more alive, even if it maybe isn’t accurate. 8/10 Read More

No Exit and Three Other Plays by Jean Paul Sartre

Categories: 1948, Books, and Fiction.

No Exit is iconic and important, even if it is a little obvious in retrospect and even if Sartre’s ideas have become a little cliche. (Well, that’s to his credit, isn’t it?) (9/10)I haven’t read Electra (the Sophocles version) in forever but I feel like The Flies is an interesting reworking of the myth / story, and it did not go where I thought it would. (7/10)I sympathize with Jessica, at least until she falls in love with Hoederer, so I have a harder time accepting the moral of Dirty Hands, even though I sort of agree with it (I Read More

Retreat (2011, Carl Tibbetts)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

The problem with this film is the moral is essentially “never trust anyone, except when you should trust them” and we can’t work with that. The acting is far better than the script deserves. The script spends it’s entire time trying to get us to buy one thing, and then another, and then another, while the truth is slightly different. And lots of movies do this, and do it well, but this one you know is trying to do it from the very first moment. This couple isn’t normal: they are far too scared of the injured mad – they Read More